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UnDisciplined: The Aquatic Ecologist And The Biological Engineer

One of the researchers we spoke to this week is trying different ways to make non-spider organisms produce spider silk.

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about risk and, as we like to do, we're coming to that idea from two very different directions. One of our guests studies aquatic predators, like sharks, in an effort to better understand their role in the global ecosystem. The other creates transgenic organisms, like goats with spider genes, in an effort to build new knowledge and solve old problems. 

Trisha Atwood is the director of the Aquatic Ecology and Global Change Lab at Utah State Univeristy, where she leads a team dedicated to the study of aquatic ecosystems. She is also the recent recipient of a research fellowship with the National Academies, which she'll be using to explore questions about human effects of the marine carbon cycle. 

Also joining us this week, from Utah State University, is Randy Lewis. You might have seen his biological engineering lab featured in late September on the CBS program "Innovation Nation." At that lab, researchers are working to develop spider silk proteins from organisms other than spiders. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.